Rev. Rosemary Webb
11th September 2016
God’s Lost Children

One of my lasting memories of moving into our house over forty years ago is losing the teaspoons. I could clearly remember thinking I would put them in a certain box because I knew I would want them immediately and being small they could easily get mislaid. I was so cross, not of course with the tea spoons but with myself. No one ever wants to lose anything.

There were crowds at this meeting, all kinds of people, tax collectors, sinners, you name it they were there, the Pharisees and leaders were horrified, how could anyone want to have anything to do with people like that. They were more than horrified, they were furious, they knew the Law, they knew a sinner when they saw one. The Jews firmly believed that God only loved those who obeyed the Law and more than that they had to be Jewish.

But Jesus knows how much God loves all his children and he makes the very obvious point that if any man in the crowd had lost one of his sheep, he would go and look for it; or if a woman had lost a coin, she would go and look for it. If something is ours we look for it when it is lost, it may not seem much to other people but as with my teaspoons I wanted them, I needed them. But my searching was nothing like what my searching would have been if one of my children had got lost. I once lost sight of one of my daughters in Woolworths when she was small and I ran up and down the aisles until I found her, which probably was no more than a minute but seemed like an hour.

Jesus is wanting to make us understand how precious all of us are, that God loves us more than we can understand, so what must his despair be like when he loses one of his precious children. By which he doesn’t mean God cannot find them, but that they have turned away from God, that they deny God. The Jews may call these people sinners but Jesus calls them lost children.

In a society where many reject God, reject the Scriptures, how do we view them – do we regard them as undesirable, better to be ignored sinners or lost people needing to be found, needing to be reached out to, to be brought back to God.

WE must learn that we need to see people as Jesus sees them. Not as people who are determined to deny God but as people who for some reason in their lives have lost not just their faith but their spirituality as well. But as well as thinking how we view them perhaps we need to consider how we view ourselves. Are there times when we become self-righteous, thinking that we’re all right, can there be times when we are convinced of our own goodness? Are we like the Pharisees, convinced of our own goodness? Or are we truthful and admit that we too are sinners, that there are times when we fall short of the ideal.

Some of you may remember while I was in training I did a placement at the Spires day Centre in Streatham, a centre founded by two local Churches. The people using the facilities had many diverse problems many reasons for being there. Some, of course, were people who had just drifted through life, but the majority weren’t.

Something, often a great tragedy, had occurred and the support they needed wasn’t offered. I remember talking before about the fairly everyday family man whose teenage son was killed in a car crash, the help his wife needed wasn’t there and she committed suicide and he drifted into drink and drugs. Or the middle aged lady, who slept between the bins in the basement of the luxury block of flats she used to live in before her divorce. It is events like that that can be the turning point and for people – they lose their job they had had for years, and without money they cannot pay the rent or mortgage so are then homeless and so often during these events their families drift away. My time at the Spires taught me that disaster can affect anyone.

When that happens so many people just seem to become numb, they shut themselves off from everyone they know and they just drift. Fortunately all the people I met had been found, they probably someone told them about the centre and they decided to go. But the help they needed was then available and whilst the path ahead wasn’t always easy the help, the listening ear they needed was there.

There is nothing more welcoming than a hot shower, clean clothes and a hot meal after months of sleeping rough. And sleeping rough is not only cold and miserable but it can be dangerous.

I am talking about my time in Streatham but since then the Churches in Redhill have set up a winter night shelter and now we also have a ‘Drop-In’, which is open three days a week. It offers practical advice to those who have been guests of the Winter Night Shelter and other disadvantaged people locally. They can be helped to get back into work, helped to find accommodation, helped to get back their self-esteem. These people are not sinners; they just didn’t get the support they needed when life seemed to turn against then. These, I believe, are the lost children Jesus was talking about.

So why did all these lost children, all who the Pharisees called sinners, why did they listen to Jesus, there must have been plenty of other things they could have been doing. I believe they listened to Jesus because they knew he would listen to them. I doubt the Pharisees would listen to them but Jesus would for he never turns anyone away, he always shows God’s love to all.

Of course the disciples were also present and I think Jesus was also teaching them how they should see people. Not judge people by what they have achieved but how they show God’s love to all.

And this is our challenge today. We are Jesus’ 21st century disciples, still facing many of the same problems. Parts of the Christian Church, like the Pharisees, are very quick to condemn, to judge people as sinners, rather than sit and listen and then show them God’s love for them. How all who turn to him will be saved. That God doesn’t judge by wealth or achievement but by how people serve him and proclaim the Gospel.

Jesus is the good shepherd, and is still asking us to find his lost sheep, the lost children. Are we prepared to listen to them and hear their stories, or, are we like the Pharisees do we just turn our backs and condemn.

Luke 15: 1 – 10